A Field Trip With 4th Graders, Snow, and a Very Big Hole

A week ago I woke up at 5am on a bus filled with 4th graders and parents in Northern Arizona. I was on a bus because every year the boys’ school has a 4th grader trip to the Grand Canyon, and I was one of the lucky parents to go. I was up at 5 am because Tornado S is a morning person, and unlike his peers, he fell asleep minutes after the bus pulled away from the school at 10 pm the night before.

I tried to doze the last half an hour, wishing for my own bench as Tornado S snuggled next me, watching the forest outside our bus.

At 5:30, we arrived at our destination to watch the sunrise at the Canyon. We were asked to wake our charges and that we could only occupy the hotel lobby bathroom briefly, hinting at better accommodations later. After going on several of these trips, I know this for a lie, so I grabbed my toothbrush, toothpaste, and travel facial pads and hide them in my sweatshirt pocket.

Along with a few other parents, I helped carry the cold breakfast to an outdoor viewing area along the Canyon. A father graciously gave me his box because the last thing was so heavy. As though I didn’t regularly carry an eleven year old over my shoulders. But it was 5:30 in the morning, and I assumed that any biting remark in my head was due to the time.

After waiting in line for the bathroom and modeling to fourth grade girls that they really didn’t need to stand over the sink to brush their hair or their teeth, I met my charges outside. This year they trusted me with three. During Tornado E’s trip, they entrusted me with only two kids. To be fair, one of them was Tornado E, but come on, I know how to deal with more kids. Everyone knows my kids.

Within 5 minutes, I had lost Tornado S. Clearly I was not responsible enough to handle three kids. That was a mistake.

New rule. The three boys would stick together. Always. Don’t look for me. Look for each other. I can find a group of three boys.

I sent the boys to the breakfast line. I stayed in the back, wishing I had remembered my jacket, wishing I hadn’t left my wallet in the bus so I could get hot chocolate, trying not to go to the front of the line and organize the process of getting food. As I waited, I noticed kids with plates piled high with danishes, bagels, breakfast bars. As in, there’s no way an adult would eat that much, much less a skinny 4th grader. Stay calm, Fae; you don’t have to organize everything. Then it got worse.

A large, fluffy, white thing floated down from the partial cloudy skies. I was seeing things. Then another. Oh, God, no. Then another. I’m totally making this up. Then another. Then another. Then another. It was snowing.

Now I know that what I experienced was not even a dusting, which would make me the world’s largest wimp to many readers. But I’m a desert girl who puts up with hellish heat; I don’t do snow. And it was snowing at 6am, and I was up at 6 am, outside in the snow, with only a t-shirt, long sleeve SPF shirt, and a sweatshirt. I was unhappy.

But then there was the amazing view. And I had chocolate milk. Then 4th graders are hilarious. We had a hike along the Grand Canyon with funny, interesting guides. My boys were fast runners who wanted to lead, so the next hour was alternated between running to stay up with the boys and turning around and telling Tornado S to hurry up. Poor Tornado S. My little tortoise. On every hike, my chant is “Hurry up, Tornado S. Tornado S, get your hat on.” A chant that is taken up by many of the adults. That day was no exception.

Every time the group stopped for the tour guides to talk, I stood in a patch of sunlight, dreaming of the time it would be warm enough to shed some clothes, just like on Tornado E’s trip.

Except it never happened.

It was cold and windy when we left the rim. It was cold and windy when we got into town to watch an IMAX movie of the Grand Canyon. (Comfy chairs plus dark room means I have never seen the whole movie.) It was cold and windy when we got out of the theater. It was cold and windy when we had lunch at the Watch Tower. It was cold and windy when we went to a trading post. It was cold and windy when we went to the Wupatki Ruins. It was cold and windy when we went to Sunset Creator. It was cold and windy when we went to dinner.

The whole state was under a wind advisory that day. And Arizona is a pretty large state.

But hey, the kids had fun. I got a lot of pictures and got to talk to a lot of cool adults and hang out with a lot of cool kids. And I walked over 18,000 steps. That’s more than the SeaWorld trip.

But the most surreal moment was when I heard:

“You look so much like your mom it’s crazy.”

I looked around and realized the girl, surrounded with her little girl pack, was talking to me.

“Oh, she does.” “She does look like her mom”

“Who’s her mom?”

“Tornado S’s grandma! The one teaching us line dancing.”

“OH! She does!”

Um, thanks?



In the classroom

I spent yesterday afternoon, helping out at Tornado E’s class.  I try to volunteer one day out of the month.  I wanted to do more, but I was afraid I would take too much time from other mom’s volunteering.  I’m starting to think I’m the only one who does go in as I mentioned it to a few of the stay-at-home moms after school.  When I suggested they take a day just because it was fun, they looked at me like I had grown a third eye.  I guess our alone time is precious.  I know it is for me.

I chose yesterday because it was the only day of class this week, because they had a speaker coming in, and because it was supposed to rain all week.  Before the boys, I worked as a teacher’s assistant for a kindergarten and a first grade class and as a Girl Scout troop organizer.  When there’s a schedule deviation or if those kids couldn’t go out every single day to play, hell was likely to break loose within the class room.

I would like to regale you all with tales of humorous acts and speeches, but most of the kids were shy and quiet.  There was only one kid in the class willing to make a fool of himself by saying crazy things, doing crazy things.  My son.

Not only did he dance his way back into the classroom after the presentation, making one of the teachers laugh, he was the one to spout off hilarious things.

As we sat around the table for snack time, the kids were eager to tell the teacher what they did over the weekend. Tornado E didn’t want to be left out of the conversation, even though he felt we did nothing exciting.  He pulled my sleeve.

Tornado E: Mommy, lean over.  I have a secret to tell you.

I leaned over.

Tornado E: (whispering) I’m going to pretend we went to the toy store, ok?

Me: Ok.

Tornado E: (to the teacher) We went to the toy store!

Teacher: Oh?

Tornado E: Yup.  And we saw Toy Story toys.

Teacher: Which one is your favorite?

Tornado E: Buzz Lightyear!

All right.

Later as the teacher was reading a story, she asked the students what kinds of houses they lived in, giving examples of brick, steel, stuck-o.

Tornado E: I live in a gingerbread house!

The teacher looked over at me.  I smiled.

Me: It’s always nice to live in Tornado E’s world.

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